Monday, September 13

Posted by Laurel Garver on Monday, September 13, 2010 10 comments
"The Patronus is a kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the dementors feed upon--hope, happiness, the desire to survive...."
"How do you conjure it?" said Harry curiously.
"With an incantation that will only work if you are concentrating on a single, very happy memory."
--J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (New York: Scholastic, 1999) p. 237.

I've been reading Azkaban to my daughter and came across this passage last night. It got me thinking about the power of memory in our lives and the lives of our characters.

Like Harry, I think I'd have to cast about for a while before I landed on a memory that was powerful enough to protect me from hope-sucking malevolence. Those kinds of memories are the ones tied to our identities, I think. Usually they're of some happy event that turned our life course in some way, like Harry learning he was a wizard.

How about your characters? What memories protect them when hopelessness threatens? How might you use a happy memory to bring hope to a character in a tight corner?

You could win an "expecto patronem" totebag, a gift card or other writerly goodies if you enter my prize drawing HERE.
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  1. This is good. I need to give my MC a good memory. Life can be horrible and set you up for bad relationships, but if there is even one person who gives you hope, you can draw from that.

  2. Oh, what a great thing to think about throughout my day. Hmmm... :-)

  3. You always get me thinking. Which is why I keep coming back. My mind is already wandering there . . . have a great day!

  4. First of all, love the new template! Gorgeous!

    I use memories to eplain why characters behave the way they do - to shed light on their personalities for themselves and the readers.

  5. Of all the cool ideas and magic that Rowling has come up with, I think I like this one the best. Thanks for the reminder that good memories have enough power to overcome even the worst hope-sucking events and people.

  6. Mary: Powerful memories are a huge piece of my work, which is about the grief experience. But I think the idea is applicable in other contexts too.

    Shannon: it's powerful when kids beging to realize they can draw on past experiences to face today's challenges. It's a huge part of maturation.

    Janet: This "protective memory" idea has my brain smoking a bit too. So many implications...

  7. Talli: Thanks! It was fun to redecorate. Memory can do lots of things in narrative. It's interesting in Azkaban how much Rowling ties it to identity. The dementor's kiss, for example, sucks away one's "soul"--a substance consisting of our personality and memories. She seems to suggest that without our memories, the self is lost.

    Yat-Yee: Definitely. In the film version of Phoenix, Harry fights Voldemort's attempts to possess him by calling up memories of love and friendship.

  8. What a great question! I'll add that into my character sketch. Thanks Laurel.

  9. Awesome analogy! My character uses a memory of his mentor when things get tough. The older man took care of him and he remembers his gruffness and his kindness :)

  10. Lynn: memories can be a great way to show rather than tell backstory also.

    Jemi: Cool. I like using memories like that, too--internalizing another character as a way to keep drawing on his strength even when my MC is separated from him.